Gun buyback program delayed
Critics see buyback as disarming responsible Canadians, not criminals
OTTAWA – Firearm owners are becoming increasingly frustrated by a proposed national gun buyback program that is part of a huge gun ban. But the program has faced such stiff opposition that it has been shelved until 2025.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet decided Oct. 11 that a buyback of prohibited firearms, initially scheduled for this year, will now be deferred until late 2025, following the next general federal election.
The buyback program was to be part of an amnesty extended to gun owners in 2020 when the federal government banned 1,900 types of guns, mostly semi-automatics with the capability of more than five rounds per magazine. The amnesty was to end on October 30 and has now been pushed back, along with a buyback program, to October 30, 2025. Meantime, the federal government has said owners of the banned guns cannot use them or sell them.
The 2020 ban includes the Mini-Ruger 14, capable of 10 rounds. A buyback program would have paid $1,407 for the Ruger, a small-calibre rifle used by farmers for small animals like groundhogs.
The buyback program would aim to repurchase 200,000 firearms that the federal government categorized as “assault-style.” While no specific reason was provided for the delay, the Federal Department of Public Safety recognized widespread opposition among licensed gun owners, regardless of whether they owned prohibited firearms. In other words, the government is trying to figure out how to implement a buyback program that gun owners would buy into.
The federal government’s own Department of Public Safety 2023 survey of 2,000 firearm owners found that less that half are willing to give up a gun and 10 per cent of gun owners “would refuse to participate at all” in the buyback program, even if required by law.
As it stands, there is no way for a farmer or anyone else to get paid for turning in a gun, said Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters manager of policy Mark Ryckman. “People are hoping this (gun ban) will go away, so they are holding on to their firearms.”
Critics argue that the ban and buyback program is wasteful, as it focuses on responsible gun owners, not on curbing illegal gun smuggling and sales and does not target crime or gang violence.
Speaking to a standing committee on public safety about bill C-21 (the proposed new gun control bill) earlier this year, Dr. Caillin Langman, assistant clinical professor of medicine at McMaster U, said that banning more guns would not reduce gun violence. “Since 2003, the number of owned, restricted firearms has doubled from 572,000 to 1.2 million but the rate of overall homicide has not increased, nor has the rate of homicide by handguns.”
Langman, who is an emergency physician and academic peer reviewer on gun deterrence research on homicides, suicides and gangs, said that the anticipated billions of dollars that would be spent on confiscating firearms would be better spent on youth diversion and gang deterrence programs.
The cost of the national buyback program remains uncertain, with initial estimates ranging from a minimum of $300 million to as high as $756 million according to the Parliamentary Budget Office.
Bill C-21 has also become so complicated that Ryckman calls it “a mess.”
The Liberals tried to push through an 11th hour amendment that would have increased the number of banned guns as part of the largest gun prohibition in Canadian legislative history but that was dropped under pressure from opposition MPs. A new amendment would increase a ban on those same guns but only on the ones purchased in the future. That amendment would increase the gun ban to include centre-fire semi-automatic firearms, Ryckman said. “It would not have an effect on existing hunting rifles and shotguns (that are not included in the 2020 ban).”
Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro has been most critical of Ottawa, saying last year that “The federal government is clearly seeking to ban legal firearm ownership altogether.”
Bill C-21 passed third reading in the House of Commons, passed first and second reading in the Senate and is being reviewed by the Senate Standing Committee on National Security, Defence, and Veterans Affairs.